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Feb 24, 2022 / 16:01

Benefits of kid inoculating outweigh risks: Experts

Being vaccinated will help to minimize disruption to kids' education, routines, and other things that are important to their wellbeing.

The benefit of the Covid-19 vaccine is much greater than the risk it poses, Nguyen Trong Khoa, deputy director of the Department of Medical Examination and Treatment under the Ministry of Health (MoH), has stressed.

“The best way to protect children for in-person schooling is exactly what the Vietnamese Government is doing: keeping the Covid-19 prevention protocols in place as well as the ongoing vaccination rollout for children, including those aged 5-11,” Khoa told The Hanoi Times.

The MoH has built a plan for vaccinating children aged 5-11 against Covid-19, sparking much controversy among Vietnamese parents in recent times. However, being vaccinated will help to minimize disruption to children’s education, routines and other things that are important to their wellbeing, Khoa said.

“Children aged 5-11 would also benefit from herd immunity through high vaccination coverage, like the 12-17 age group,” he said, adding that child vaccination will reduce the threat of spreading community infection, and therefore, avoid shutting down schools.

A student of Vietnam-Angeri Secondary School in Hanoi's Thanh Xuan District gets Covid-19 vaccine shot. Photo: Kim Thach

“Though vaccination should not be a prerequisite for in-person learning and incidence of Covid-19 is lower and it is less severe in children, it can occasionally occur, thus full vaccination should be still ensured for all children from 5 to 11 years old,” Khoa emphasized, noting that the vaccination for this age group would be rolled out in the first and second quarter of this year when the vaccine arrives in Vietnam.

Survey results released recently by the MoH show that out of 450,000 parents in all 63 localities of children under 12, 60.6% agreed with vaccinating their children.

While only 1.9% disagreed with the proposal, 29.1% said they were undecided, while 7.6% said they would agree if the child vaccination was made mandatory.

Parents are hesitant to vaccinate 5-11 kids

Concerned about the vaccines' side effects and Covid-19 infections, parents are now hesitant to have their children vaccinated.

The two kids of Hai Van, who live in Hanoi's Nam Tu Liem District are five and ten years old. Van and her husband have decided against getting them vaccinated in a survey conducted by their children’s school.

“My husband and I are worried about the side effects of the vaccine because there have been cases of severe reactions after injections among those aged 12-17 that led to the deaths of five teenagers,” Van told The Hanoi Times.

Answering a questionnaire on vaccination at her six-year-old son's school, Diep Thuy, a resident of Hanoi's Cau Giay District, chose the undecided or considering option.

Thuy said her son has underlying health conditions and suffered from several food allergies. Therefore, she was concerned  that the vaccine could trigger serious reactions.

“From what I have learned, the vaccine in use is very new and still in the experimental stage, which means it is not safe enough,” Thuy said.

Some others said that from what they learnt online, the vaccine has ingredients that could affect the children's endocrine system. Many parents also think that Covid-19 is much less severe in children and therefore, the vaccine is not worth the risk.

Sharing with The Hanoi Times, another Hanoian named Thanh Nga, said both children of hers, aged six and ten, have got Covid-19, but their symptoms were mild and she did not think it was necessary to get them vaccinated.

“It's not just me. Children of several colleagues and friends of mine have also got infected and none of them were severe. In reality, data shows almost no Covid-19 fatalities among children aged 5-11,” Nga said.

Experts’ encouragement

Health minister Nguyen Thanh Long in an interview with local media last month said while it is not mandatory to vaccinate children against Covid-19, it is highly recommended.

Pfizer shots so far are the only ones to have been recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for use in children this young, with a lower dosage compared to the one that is administered to the adults.

“Children and adolescents aged 5-17 years of age with comorbidities that put them at significantly higher risk of serious Covid-19 disease, should be vaccinated, alongside other high-risk groups,” Long said.

 Up to 95% of Vietnamese children aged 12-17 have received one dose of Covid-19 vaccines. Photo: Linh Duong

In an interview with the Vietnam News Agency, Dr. Kidong Park, WHO Representative in Vietnam highly spoke of how the Vietnamese Government has ramped up its vaccination campaign since June 2021 to reach a high vaccination coverage.

The country is planning to start vaccine rollout for children aged 5-11 within the first quarter of this year. Park said he knows some Vietnamese parents are concerned about the safety of Covid-19 vaccines, but the vaccines which have received authorization by regulatory authorities for use among children are safe and effective in preventing severe disease developments, hospitalizations, and deaths due to Covid-19.

“Children and adolescents tend to experience a milder Covid-19 disease compared to adults, though there are other risks that we need to consider when a child gets sick with coronavirus such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, a serious condition that can prolong a child’s recovery from the disease,” Park stressed.

“We cannot deny the effectiveness of vaccines and the benefits of getting vaccinated,” he noted.

To ensure the safe rollout of vaccines to children aged 5-11, the official recommended the Vietnamese Government to develop a well-planned system for acquiring and distributing the vaccines as well as a robust system for monitoring and responding to safety and adverse events following immunization.

Doctor Nguyen Viet Kien, a lecturer at the Hanoi University of Public Health, said he understood why parents were concerned about the vaccine as he himself was a parent of children aged 5-11.

He acknowledged that children in this age group range do not normally suffer from serious Covid-19 complications.

“Parents should not be confused because global studies have shown that the Covid-19 vaccine rarely causes serious problems for children. The healthcare system in Vietnam is not as advanced as that of other countries and for now, vaccination is the solution to avoid Covid-19 and keep the system from getting overloaded. It is very necessary to immunize children with high risks, including those with obesity and having chronic diseases, to protect them from Covid-19 complications,” Kien told The Hanoi Times.

He advised parents to trust scientific information as experiments have shown that the vaccine is safe for children because they would receive a dose that is just one-third of the one used for those aged 12-17.

Kien added that around 42 countries and territories have carried out vaccination for children aged 5-11 and almost no serious or unusual side effects like myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle) have been detected.

Vietnam began to administer Pfizer vaccine to children aged from 12-17 in November 2021. Up to 95% of the children aged 12-17 had received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccines and nearly 90% double dosed as of mid-February, data from the MoH shows.